A day after the town was plunged into darkness with residents and businesses trying to cope without power, Greenwich appears to be awakening to a new dawn Tuesday.
There are only 3 of the 27,910 Connecticut Light & Power customers without power as of 5:30 a.m. as cooler, drier weather is to prevail. That's a dramatic turnaround from Monday when residents heaved a collective sigh of relief after coping with outages caused Sunday night when a powerful round of thunderstorms ravaged the town, uprooting trees and knocking down limbs which tore down utility lines, and caused transformers to explode.
That relief was short-lived when one of the major transmission lines—carrying 115,000 volts of electricity—was shorted out by an 85-foot tall black locust that fell onto it off Summit Road in Riverside. The transmission lines run along the Metro-North railroad through town.
The black locust fell onto the lines during the Sunday night storms. "There was this huge crash and my wife and I saw the tree had fallen," said Greg Islan of 103 Summit Rd. in the Riverside neighborhood of Greenwich. The tree was located on the railroad right of way at the rear of his property.
Although the tree was leaning atop the lines, CL&P was still able to deliver power to town.
The utility, Metro-North and town officials had finalized plans to remove the tree at 8 p.m. Monday "after the commuter rush hour, the day of business was done, the surgeries were done at the (Greenwich) hospital. We planned to take down power in town for a two-hour window so they could remove the tree," explained Greenwich's Emergency Management Director Dan Warzoha.
However, Mother Nature decided otherwise. "The tree shifted and there were flames horizontally along the branches," Islan said.
Businesses, banks, car washes, hair salons, restaurants, even Town Hall—where electronics and electricity to keep employees and clients cool in air conditioning in the hot humid weather—were closed.
Town officials declared a state of emergency. Portable stop signs dotted intersections where inoperable traffic lights hung. Metro-North had to rely upon diesel engines to move commuter trains.
The only business being done in town was setting up portable generators to keep some homes and businesses powered, and cleanup—the sounds of chainsaws and generators permeated the air, along with the odious whiffs of diesel fuel.
Meanwhile crews from Lewis Tree Service and a 24-ton crane that could reach 92 feet from Compo Brothers in Stamford were brought in by CL&P for the tree extrication.
By 2 p.m. power restoration was begun and by 4:30 p.m. nearly 85 percent of town was back in business—at least power-wise.
At the Hunan Gourmet chinese restaurant in the Whole Foods shopping center on East Putnam Avenue at Washington Street, the staff was preparing for dinner. The darkness and heat inside the usually air-conditioned restaurant prompted management decide against serving lunch.
"It was just too hot in the kitchen and the cooks couldn't see," said cashier Lisa Zheng. And without electricity, staff was unable to use the electronic ordering system, Zheng added.
A couple doors away, Lee Staffeldt, the shift supervisor at Starbucks, was pulling dusting duty. Pulling long-handled dust broom along the unlit sign in the window, Staffeldt said, "cleaning is all we can do without water. ...We would be very busy right now. I'm hoping it (the electricity) comes on soon."
Shortly before 8:30 p.m. Monday, town officials notified residents via the reverse 911 phone system that the state of emergency had been lifted. Meanwhile cleanup efforts were to continue Tuesday as town public works crews had piles of tree debris to collect from around town. On Sunday evening, officials estimated at least 60 roads were closed because of downed trees, limbs and utility lines.